New director of basketball operations gives Pitt D.C. leverage
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David Cox: Pitt director of basketball operations.
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When Pitt men's coach Jamie Dixon set out to hire his new director of basketball operations, he wanted to get someone with a strong administrative background first and foremost. But high on his list of desires was to get a well-connected AAU coach who could help make recruiting inroads into the Baltimore-Washington corridor.
In David Cox, Dixon found what he was looking for. As the director of basketball operations at Pitt, Cox is allowed to recruit only in Pittsburgh and nearby communities, but that hasn't stopped this former AAU coach from Washington from making his presence felt in the recruiting wars for the Panthers.
Cox has been on the job for less than two weeks, but he quickly is becoming an important part of Dixon's recruiting efforts. Already, Pitt has received a verbal commitment from one of his former players with the D.C. Assault, guard/forward Darnell Dodson. Some of the other top D.C.-area players are putting Pitt on their short lists.
"The 2007 class in D.C. is one of the best in the last 25 or 30 years," said Cox, who worked as an assistant high school principal and AAU coach for the past seven years in Washington before his Pitt appointment. "And the 2008 class isn't bad either."
Two of the top players of the class are Michael Beasley and Chris Wright, and both are considering Pitt in the wake of Cox's hiring.
Beasley, a 6-foot-9 power forward ranked as the No. 4 player in the country by Rivals, has given a verbal commitment to Kansas State. But Cox's hiring has opened the door for Pitt. Beasley recently said he is interested in Pitt and could decide to visit the school if he does not like his visit to Kansas State. If Beasley does not come away impressed with Kansas State, Pitt has the inside track on a commitment because of the close relationship between Cox and Beasley.
The connection between Beasley and Kansas State is Wildcats assistant coach Dalonte Hill, another former coach with the D.C. Assault who worked under Cox.
Dixon and Kansas State coach Bob Huggins are waging a battle on the recruiting trail. They are going head-to-head on another top prospect, Herb Pope of Aliquippa. Pope originally gave a verbal commitment to Pitt and then reopened his recruitment once Huggins was hired at Kansas State.
Pitt also has become an option for Wright, one of the top point guards in the 2007 class. Wright is considered a top-20 player in his class and recently listed Pitt among his favorites. Wright is close to Cox as well.
Pitt is not in the pole position on Beasley and Wright because the Panthers had not recruited them until Cox got on board, but Cox's presence has given Dixon and his staff the ability to make a pitch.
Beasley and Wright represent the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the deep pool of players in the Washington area. The Baltimore-Washington area is producing more and more of the top players in the country every year. For the time being, it has surpassed New York as the hotbed for recruiting. Usually the first stop on recruiting trips for coaches, New York has fallen on hard times. It does not have one player among the top 70 in the '07 class. Contrast that to the Washington-Baltimore area, which currently has five of the top 25 players in the class.
"Areas go through cycles, some more than others," Dixon said. "There definitely are a lot of players to come out of the D.C. area, especially the last few years."
That doesn't mean Pitt will abandon New York, but it does signal a significant change for the program. Pitt rebuilt the program around players such as Carl Krauser, Chris Taft and current players Ronald Ramon and Keith Benjamin. Half of the players on this year's roster hail from the New York/New Jersey area.
Now it seems Dixon is going in another direction -- south on Interstate 95.
First Published August 1, 2006 12:00 am